Update: Junior Livestock Show of Spokane held a virtual show on March 5th. Approximately 1/3 of the registered exhibitors participated. Even though the process to complete the kids’ projects were different this year, they were able to rise to the challenge. The outcome has been good with a limited amount of livestock remaining to be purchased. You can find the results at www.juniorshow.org.
Each May, local 4-H and FFA youth look forward to showing and selling project animals at the Junior Livestock Show of Spokane. The show, scheduled to celebrate its 85th year, draws nearly 500 youth from the Pacific Northwest to compete for awards and to sell market animals they’ve reared for months.
This year, due to the Covid-19 social distancing guidelines, the show is being held online and the livestock auction is cancelled–leaving youth scrambling to find buyers for their market goats, sheep, pigs, and beef.
Having an online auction wasn’t feasible, because there was no way to verify the actual weight of each animal to be auctioned off, explained Erica Whitmore, Deer Park FFA Advisor. Whitmore serves on the board of directors for the Junior Livestock Show.
At an auction, livestock are sold by the pound, she added, and the weight of each animal is verified when it arrives at the show. This left no choice but to cancel the auction. Youth have been reaching out to potential buyers to directly sell their animals, and to try to recover the cost of their project investment.
To help connect sellers and buyers, the show’s board of directors has created a list of kids who need to find buyers, and have been matching potential customers with youth.
Whitmore said many of the farm youth from both Spokane and Stevens Counties participate in the Junior Livestock Show. “I’ve been getting text messages and phone calls from people wanting to make connections,” she said, adding, “Social media has been a great outlet, and county 4-H has been helping too.”
Whitmore has four students still looking for a buyer for their market lambs.
Whitmore said the decision to cancel the auction was difficult. Not only do kids look forward to this annual event and train for it, they invest in their project animals.
“The time and money commitment for these kids is quite a bit,” Whitmore said, adding that her students average 1-1.5 hours per day for half a year to be ready for a show. They will invest $400-$1,000 or more feeding their animals.
Sarah Cotter, a Deer Park-area 4-H leader, said her 4-H club members found purchasers for their hogs and are relieved to have done so.
Cotter said it is their club’s custom to have its members reach out to potential purchasers prior to the auction.
“We sold all nine hogs and pre-sold our two summer hogs,” she said. Cotter is the manager for the Clayton Community Fair, and says that while no summer fairs have been cancelled, there is potential for that to happen. If it does, more local youth will need to directly find buyers for their auction animals.
The Clayton Fair auction typically sells 5-8 goats, 10-15 lambs, 25 hogs, and 5-10 beef. Cotter noted that supporting local youth by purchasing their auction animals also supports local butchers.
“People have been going to the grocery store and there is no meat,” Cotter added. “I think it’s created a panic and that’s been helpful finding sellers.”